Conformity; even the most esteemed brand in the motoring world isn’t spared of its (un)doing. We’re addressing the T in the Ferrari California T (a rather unimaginative acronym for turbocharging), but its function differs greatly from the F40 of yesteryear.
But before getting there, here’s a a little obligatory icebreaker. The California is close to a decade old after making its debut in 2008. Back then, the front-engined rear wheel drive grand tourer (GT) had a 4.3-litre naturally aspirated V8 making no less than 490 horses and 485 Nm of torque, and was the first Ferrari to come with a seven-speed F1 dual clutch transmission.
|Name||Ferrari California T|
|Engine||3,855cc; twin-turbo flat-plane V8|
|Transmission||7-speed F1 dual clutch auto|
|Max Power||560 hp @ 7,500 rpm|
|Max Torque||755 Nm @ 4,750 rpm|
|0 – 100km/h; Top Speed||3.6 seconds; 316km/h|
|Price||RM888,888 before duties and taxes|
It wasn’t a jaw-dropping looker to be honest, but the entire California flavour was revitalised with a much needed update in 2014. That came courtesy of an all-new 3.9-litre twin turbocharged V8 engine, a more rapid shifting twin-clutch transmission, stiffer suspensions with the latest magnetorheological damping system (patented of course), as well as a brand new face. Yep, the guys at Maranello insist that nearly all panels on the outside are new, so that plays in favour of the looks department – until you step inside the car.
I’m all for functional simplicity, but if Porsche and the AMG GT could bring more design finesse to the table than a Prancing Horse, that’s all the wake up call a craftsman needs. The lack of fancy gizmos and tech trickery aside, everything within sight of the cabin can be customised to your liking, be it an all-pink interior or diamond encrusted gold-plated trims (if that’s not overdoing it enough). Believe us, there’s nothing Ferrari hasn’t seen before, so don’t be surprised if your Sales Advisor doesn’t flinch at what you think is an outrageous option.
Now, the reason for turbocharging the California T isn’t so much as to provide an extra punch, but to improve efficiency. Nevertheless, the new 3.9-litre V8 draws much more power, bringing the numbers up to 560 hp and 755 Nm of torque. That’s a full 70 horses and 270 Nm more than the old 4.3-litre lump, but the engine is evidently capable of churning more power. We know that because the same engine in the 488 GTB makes 100 hp more (661 hp and 760 Nm). Despite having close to 50 percent more torque, the turbocharged GT offers 15 percent better fuel efficiency, yet sprints from nought to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds (the old one is 0.2 seconds slower). Top speed is checked at 316km/h.
Weirdly enough, in the first three gears, you don’t get the full 760 Nm of twist because the numbers gradually increase as you bang up the cogs. Instead, you start off by having roughly 600 Nm (and a flatter curve). Ferrari’s reasoning for this complex setup is to make the California behave as ‘naturally aspirated’ as possible, both in the way it reacts to throttle input and the way it sounds.
Not a thing in the world sounds anything remotely close to a wailing Ferrari engine at full whiff, so to have this turbo mill redline at 7,500 rpm versus a wailing NA V8 at 9,250 revolutions (the old California’s V8 revs till 8,000 rpm) is by no means fulfilling. And certainly not how you’d relinquish your Ferrari virginity. The good news is, there’s still that sonorous roar at crank, which quickly mellows into a fluttering crisp. Quite a bit of work has gone into making it sound this way, because the last thing Ferrari wants to do is lose customers over the sound of its exhaust.
Two things that stand out in our sub-200km test route were the sheer quickness of the twin-clutch gearbox and the magnetic dampers. It rides without flaw and hardly busy over poor road surfaces towards Fraser’s Hill despite riding on massive 20-inch wheels. It’s no 458 Italia by way of handling, agility and steering feel, but as far as GTs go, the California T’s unwavering competency merits the Ferrari badge without question.
The mechanical setup is fundamentally the same as the previous California; double wishbones at the front and multi-link setup at the rear, and both axles come with stiffer springs – about 12 percent stiffer to be exact. Weight distribution is slightly rear biased, giving it that characteristic neutrality around corners. Predictable it certainly is, but boring? No, not at all.
But is there an option to switch it up a notch, you ask? There is. It’s called the Handling Speciale, or HS for short. This option comes with even stiffer springs (16 percent stiffer up front, 19 percent stiffer at the back), reprogrammed magnetic dampers, louder exhausts and updated transmission that upshifts and downshifts about 30 percent and 40 percent quicker, respectively. It might not sound like much as an option, but I cannot humanly imagine how much quicker the transmission can get. It’s right up there as the best dual clutch transmission in the world, so long as you don’t wreck it via launch control. Do yourself a favour: if you visit NAZA Italia, ask them how much it costs to do a single launch control.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
Whether or not the California T administers the full dose of Ferrari experience, we can’t deduce with conviction. Why? Because more than half the Ferraris sold over the last five years is the California, and among all owners, 70 percent are new to the Ferrari brand. Are all 70 percent hardcore driving enthusiasts? Probably not, and that’s precisely the appeal. It’s an everyday Ferrari that’s furthest from a daunting car to drive.